On with the show

The situation

Ken Jones, Chair of Rex Theatre in Charlton, Victoria believes the recent history of the Rex Theatre would make an ideal movie script in itself: “…old cinema saved by community during harsh drought, experiences renaissance in interest and support, only to succumb to abrupt closure resulting from damage inflicted by two successive major floods. There is drama, heartache, uncertainty – is there a future for the historic building?”

On the night of 14 January 2011, the Rex had over one metre of water flow through the building. The historic, community owned, volunteer operated venue was badly damaged – from the seating to the carpets to the wiring and even the stage and piano.

The response

Not long after the disaster, the shadowboard outside the theatre read “The Rex will Rebound” and renovations began in August 2011. Support from many sources began to provide hope for getting the Rex theatre back up and running, with improvements to boot. FRRR hosted a Donation Account for the project, providing administration and a channel through which funding could be collected.

The outcome

Adjoining shops were turned into a candy bar and a tiny gallery and gathering area. An all access lift was installed to facilitate entry for disabled patrons. One of the theatre’s most eye-catching features – the stunning waterfall stage curtain, has been replaced, along with new wall-mounted lighting brackets. Ken Jones describes it as “…a finishing touch which draws the internal space together and heightens the sense of anticipation of what the theatre is about to present”. Both aesthetics and practicalities were taken on board for this final aspect, and the upward lift of the curtain compliments the vertical lines of the auditorium and removes the curtain from potential threat in the event of future flood.

On the re-opening night of the Rex Theatre there was sustained applause as the new curtain was raised. What a wonderful achievement for the community: despite disaster, the show goes on.

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